Published Cost Estimates of Dental School Are Totally Wrong

Imagine if you told a patient you’d charge them $1,000 for a root canal. Then they get the bill in the mail and it says they owe $1,250. The patient would probably be upset right? Dental schools are effectively doing this to dental students all around the country with faulty cost estimates of dental school.

The Average Private School Dental Student After 2020 Will Leave with Over $500,000 in Debt

Right now the typical dentist I consult with has a student loan debt of around $400,000. There is a big range around this student loan average and most clients have between $200,000 (state school w/ in state tuition) to $600,000 (specialist who used forbearance during residency). However, these numbers are going to get far worse in the future.

dental school loan calculator

Consider the current published cost of a Tufts Dental School education according to their website.

Program YearPublished Total Cost

Here’s the thing. These numbers just aren’t true for an entering first year. They’re based on current cost of attendance. You cannot lock these numbers in any more than I can go buy season tickets to the St. Louis Cardinals in 10 years at today’s rates.

Dental schools should show the expected four year cost of attendance and take into account probable 5% tuition and fee increases per year and factor in inflation into the cost of living. Tufts lists the cost of tuition at $70,712 each year. That’s totally wrong. Tufts officials KNOW that they will not be leaving tuition alone for an entire four year period, as do the other dental schools that list their expected cost this way.

These numbers also leave out the crucial fact that loans accrue interest while you’re in school.

dental school cost estimates

The Real Four Year Cost of Dental School

I’ll use a 4% rate of increase in the total cost of attendance in my real estimate of the four year cost of Tufts dental. I’ll also assume that you accrue interest at a rate of 7% per year and that you borrow the entire cost of attendance. The total will represent the true cost of Tufts Dental for the class of 2021.

Program YearRealistic Total Cost


Every Dental School Misrepresents its Cost of Attendance

I picked on Tufts because it is one of the country’s most expensive dental schools. Even so, these numbers are very typical of private dental schools or out of state public schools. The cost estimates never account for tuition and fee increases that will almost certainly happen. The estimates also leave out the cost of interest accumulation while you’re in school.

I’m no lawyer, but I think future dental students burdened by mountains of debt might have few options left but to pursue a class action lawsuit against the university for false advertising. If the four year published cost is $425,000 but a typical student leaves with $550,000, the published estimate is wrong.

I’ve verified this is what happens by speaking to dozens of dentists with six figure student debt while doing student loan repayment consults. They told me how their school would give them a tuition increase notice, but they never thought about comparing that to the published cost of attendance when they were applying. One dentist kept the cost estimate he received at orientation and shared it with me. The two figures of what they told him he would pay versus what he actually paid were wildly divergent.
cost estimates of dental school

Yes the Cost Estimates of Dental School Are Wrong, Sadly You Still Have to Pay it Back

There are a host of different strategies to mitigate a huge dental school student loan bill. If you owe a lot relative to your income, you should optimize the government repayment programs for maximum benefit. If your debt to income ratio is moderate, then shopping for private refinancing rates with the companies in the sidebar at the top right of this post will help. I have affiliate agreements that get you $200-$500 for refinancing that you don’t get if you visit the companies’ websites directly.

Outside of some miracle, you’re going to have to pay back this debt. The same financial aid offices that produce cost estimates of dental school that are wildly inaccurate might not provide the help you’re looking for. If that’s you, I can help. You can help future dentists by warning them to add 20% to 30% to whatever total four year cost estimates of dental school that their prospective program hands them.

cost estimates of dental school

I Can Help with Dental School Loans

My business model here at Student Loan Planner, LLC is helping graduate professionals conquer huge student loan balances with flat fee consultations.  

I perform a holistic loan analysis with my proprietary simulation tool to see what your best available repayment options are (government, private refinancing, etc). 

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9 Comments on "Published Cost Estimates of Dental School Are Totally Wrong"

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Mrs. Groovy

This is scary, ridiculous, and infuriating. And then unlike what most people think, a dentist fresh out of school can’t open his own practice. And having your own practice isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. My dentist in NY had a lucrative practice and worked six days a week, not because he wanted to.

I’m glad you’re able to provide needed help navigating the loan process.

Happy New Year from Mr. Groovy and me!

travis its good that you are bringing this up, but unfortunately i don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference because: 1. Predents mostly don’t have any financial sense of money. to them 400k is just a number and 500k won’t sound much different. it’s when they come out and start working that they know the suffocating effect of such loans. until then, they just want to “focus on getting in first.” 2. Schools can charge and scalp the way they want because they portray dentistry as a lucrative field and have the government backing them up with… Read more »
Michael W Davis, DDS
Dear Travis, You present valuable info for dental students, & pre-dent students. My junior colleagues MUST examine the economics. And too often, those presenting the financials aren’t giving full disclosures & a true picture. Our federal government in a seemingly noble effort to increase “access to care” (dentists needed in Lite-My-Fart, MS and the Killing Field neighborhoods of inner cities) sponsored these student loans. Insanity! Now, we’re in a difficult situation w/ a gross oversupply of dentists, for the economic realities. Believe me, if you’re somehow looking for government to fix Medicaid where there’s incredible “need” but little “demand”, you’ve… Read more »
Calvin j

Thanks for sharing this travis, people need to know what is really going on!